breeders and hunters. One of the most in fl uential breedings was that of Rose, a Palmerston daughter imported by Dr. William Jarvis in 1877, bred to Elcho, an Irish import. Elcho became the fi rst American bench champion, with an impressive show career that included appearances in the ring at Chicago, St. Louis, New York and Boston. His mat- ing with Rose set the look in America for the Irish, in both the show ring and the fi eld. In 1878 the Irish Setter standard was accepted by the AKC, and the breed was on its way. Th e fi rst AKC registered Irish, was Admiral 534 and registrations grew in abundance as this beautiful breed took hold. Th e breed remained popular in the show ring, but was equally admired in the fi eld. Developed to retrieve upland game, the breed originally “set” (crouched) on the bird, and the hunter came and threw a net over both dog and game. Today, this versatile hunter is pop- ular in fi eld trial events and hunting tests and happily awaits the gun shot and to be sent for the retrieve. Fast forward to the mid 1970s. Th e Irish Setter consistently ranked in the top 5 most popular AKC breeds, spurred on by the movie Big Red and the pres- ence of the breed in the Nixon White House. Over 70,000 were registered in just a few years. Th e breed su ff ered in form and function, families who cov- eted their dog as a puppy, did not know how to handle the rollicking personality of the breed, nor deal with its need for exercise. People were one-time or back- yard breeders with little to no experi- ence of their own and new puppy own- ers had no one to rely on. Th e breed
“The IrIsh seTTer Is The ulTImaTe show dog, but their versatility and spirit make them happy to participate in any challenge.”
su ff ered greatly, and it took a good deal of work by serious breeders to bring the Irish back to its current status, that of a wonderfully rollicking, loyal family dog. Where we once ranked high up in pop- ularity we now are in about 74th place with registrations annually somewhere between 1,200 to 1,500. Th e Irish Setter is the ultimate show dog, but their versatility and spirit make them happy to participate in any chal- lenge. Th ey are commonly seen hold- ing the blue ribbon in obedience, agility and rally. Th ey are known to be splendid dock divers and can catch a frisbee with the best of them. Th ey are frequently the choice of junior handlers competing at the highest levels. Th e breed’s work in the fi eld has not su ff ered, as can be evidenced by an annual trip to Booneville, Arkansas for the national fi eld trial championship. Th e dual dog is re-emerging, and dur- ing the past 5 years through the work of a select group of breeders the breed has added many more duals to its ranks. In the hunting test venue, at last count 45+ Irish held Master Hunter titles.
Like everything in life, you can’t be all things to all people. Th e Irish Setter is not for everyone; he is slow to mature, both physically and mentally, and has a very high energy level. This combination can be a challenge to live with at times. At 2 years of age a light bulb goes on somewhere and he usually becomes the dog of your dreams. He requires regular exercise and there is the need for consistent though not dif- ficult grooming. When I receive puppy inquiries, my first question is always, “Have you owned an Irish before?” Those that have, go to the top of the list. Th rough the approximate 200 years of history, the Irish Setter has endured fads and fashion, over population and movie stardom. Gratefully the breed as we see it now is in excellent hands and the Irish Setter has returned to its origins, that of an athletic, aristocratic bird dog. Today, this breed is happy circling a group ring, on point in a fi eld or just “ fl opped down on the hearth.” What could be better than that?
“The Irish Setter is the ultimate show dog, but their versatility and spirit make them happy to participate in any challenge. They are commonly seen holdIng The blue rIbbon In obedIence, agIlITy and rally.”
284 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , A UGUST 2014
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